It was another day in the palace. Another meeting like any other.
Philip sat on his throne. His crown on the table next to him. He played with his sleeves as he feigned interest for what the advisor was saying.
Henry, his main advisor and right-hand man, was taking notes and asking questions.
Elizabeth, his head of security, stood to his left, back straight, expression stern.
Everything was as usual.
This particular advisor was in part representing a small mage village. Henry knew this of course, it was his job. Philip also knew this, and was as such, unsurprised when the man’s eyes glowed and the glass he was holding remained floating in the air.
Who didn’t know this was Elizabeth, who’s hand flew to the tilt of her sword the tip of which flew towards the man’s throat.
“Elizabeth!” Henry shouted in a scolding tone, pulling her away.
Philip sat up straighter.
The advisor just looked shocked.
“Magic is expressly forbidden within the throne room,” Elizabeth defended herself. And she was right. Of course. It was her job to know protocol.
Henry sighed, turned to the advisor, “she’s correct. If you could refrain from magic use within these four walls, it would be much appreciated.”
The advisor grabbed his cup with his hands before slowly and unmagically placing it down on the table nearby. Making sure his hands were slightly raised and within view of Elizabeth.
The rest of the meeting went without a hitch.
Perhaps receiving a bit more attention from Philip than was usual. However, once the advisor left Henry promptly turned on Elizabeth.
“What was that?”
Elizabeth stood tall and unintimidated by her superior, “magic is strictly forbidden within the throne room. I was doing my duty and protecting the king and yourself.”
“He was making a cup float Eli, for goodness sake, you can’t threaten high-ranking representatives in that manner.”
“High-ranking representatives are no exception to the rule.”
Henry sighed, “perhaps. But there are methods, Eli, you could have spoken up with your voice and not,” he gestured, “with your sword.”
Elizabeth looked down at her weapon. “Magic can seem innocent at first glance. Magic is deadly. What if the glass had shattered and flown through the air at the king?”
Henry crossed his arms.
“Those rules are there for a reason. I will perform my duty, whether it be perceived as polite or not.”
“That’s a sure-fire way to start a war.”
Elizabeth hesitated, “I would lead our side to success if—”
“Don’t.” Philip spoke up now. “I have no doubt in your abilities Elizabeth, we aren’t starting a war. Magic for mages is like breathing to us. It’s natural, the man had no intent to harm anybody. You should have known that.”
Elizabeth frowned. It wasn’t often she got scolded by the king. Henry, sure. Philip was usually more chill.
“Magic is a part of our kingdom, of The Union. You need to learn to live with that.”
Elizabeth nodded, “yes, Your Majesty. Next time I shall be more… civil.”
Philip nodded, “You’re dismissed for the day.”
“I have another meeting with a mage, I don’t need you now that you’re all tense. Send me a new bodyguard…” up until this point he sounded serious, but his voice became softer and he tilted his head as he finished, “Perhaps that Jack fellow?”
Henry scrunched his nose up in disapproval but said nothing as Elizabeth bowed and left the room.
“Was that necessary?” Henry asked once she was gone.
“You started scolding her.”
“Scolding, but not sending her away. Now she will spend all day thinking about this. Probably blame me.”
“Magic is a natural part of this kingdom Henry. I approve of your choices, she’s a good head of security, but her fear of magic is a large flaw, one I struggle to ignore.”
“She isn’t scared of it.”
Henry rolled his eyes, “Your Majesty. She’s merely cautious of it. Rightfully so,” he rubbed his right arm, “You and I know better than anybody.”
Philip looked towards the window, “Couldn’t you help her to learn some appreciation for it?”
“You chose her.”
Henry hesitated, “I’ll try my best Sire.”
The next morning Elizabeth arrived to the throne room early as usual. Unusually though, she wasn’t the first one there.
Henry was standing with a young man around Elizabeth’s same age.
“Elizabeth,” Henry smiled, “come.”
She walked over, eying the lad with suspicion.
“This is William,” Henry introduced, “William, this is Elizabeth, our head of security.”
“It’s a pleasure,” he smiled and held out a hand.
Elizabeth took it, shaking it and looking at Henry in question.
“He’s a mage, a promising one. But he’s interested in the possibility of being a guard.”
“A mage guard?” Elizabeth raised her brows. It was unheard of. Mages spent most of their life studying, and the rest either in politics or doing big things. Guards, those were for the more common species. Humans, minotaurs and the like.
“Yeah, my grandmother doesn’t approve, but that’s what’s great about it.”
“Not sure if choosing your career to spite your family is a great start,” Elizabeth commented. Holding back a smirk at the kid’s attitude.
“Is there truly any good ways to choose one’s career? At least this way it’s fun.”
“Anyway,” Henry pushed the kid towards Elizabeth, “I was hoping you could do some field work today and take the kid out on an adventure or two, show him the ropes. I think the use of magic could be real beneficial to certain tasks.”
The kid smiled up at Elizabeth, a big toothy grin.
Elizabeth looked uncertain. But Henry was her superior so whatever he said went. She nodded politely, “of course Sir.”
Henry knew the use of sir outside of meetings meant she wasn’t entirely in agreement. But he let it slide, instead he reassured her he had today’s guards’ schedules sorted and to go ‘have fun’.
Elizabeth was not William’s definition of fun.
She explained the rules, got him a uniform and wouldn’t let him play with the horses. They walked through the stone streets of Oppida. Elizabeth insisted he correct his posture several times.
William held back a comment about her reminding him off his grandmother. If that comment got back to Henry or worse, his father, he would be in big trouble.
For most of the morning things were calm. A couple of lost children who were quickly reunited with their families, couple of cats in trees. It was just before lunch when a shopkeeper shouted, “stop! Thief!”
Elizabeth was on guard immediately. She spotted someone dressed in blue sprinting away from the shouting with a package in hand.
“What do we do?”
“Chase,” was all Elizabeth said before sprinting after the man.
Where he pushed people out of his way, Elizabeth was jumping left to right to avoid civilians. Intending to grab him before he escaped.
Then suddenly the man froze. No, he glowed and hovered.
Elizabeth didn’t have time to break and crashed straight into him, falling to the ground.
“Sorry!” William was holding a small thin stick he’d pulled out from an inner pocket of his uniform, both it and his eyes gave of a slight glow as he lowered the man back down to the ground.
Elizabeth grabbed the man, arrested him and returned the stolen goods to the shop keeper.
By the time they got the man’s details and gave him a trial date. It was time to head back to the palace. William was balancing on his heels, he looked excited. Elizabeth did not share his enthusiasm. She gave him pointed looks that weren’t quite glares but showed clear disappointment.
“How’d things go?” Henry asked upon their return.
“Good,” Elizabeth grunted, “he’ll make a great guard,” and she was already leaving.
“Eli?” Henry looked to William for an explanation.
The kid shrugged.
Elizabeth figured if she stayed in the palace Henry would question her attitude. She instead grabbed a sandwich from the kitchen and headed out for lunch. She found a bench in the city centre where she could people watch.
After some time a man sat next to her. He had old leather robes. Elizabeth didn’t turn to pay him any notice.
She continued to watch people and held back tears.
“You really are upset.” The comment got her to jump and turn.
Philip. The king. Was sitting next to her, unguarded and dressed casually.
“Your—” Majesty, she was going to say, but realised declaring that out loud in the middle of a busy square would be a terrible idea. “Philip, Sir. What are you doing here?”
Philip smiled, “Oh don’t look so surprised.” He’s voice was low, “Even a king needs to get out sometimes, you know?”
“Unguarded. You realise I can’t possibly approve of this?”
He smiled, “Between you and Henry,” he shook his head and leaned back. “Even you didn’t notice until I spoke,” he defended.
And it was true. “Did you follow me?”
Philip shrugged, “I wasn’t going to. But you looked so upset and well… what’s on your mind?”
Elizabeth looked up towards the palace. “I’ve worked really hard to get where I am.”
“You have. And are very deserving of your position.”
“I work every day. To stay fit, to maintain my abilities, to learn new tricks.”
Philip nodded, “That’s why you’re our head of security, right?”
“It’s just… today, Henry got me to take this new recruit with me, a mage. He’s name is William, I’d be lying if I said he isn’t promising. He listened and followed orders well, but that wasn’t what impressed me. You see, there was this chase…”
“Chase?” Philip looked nervous.
Elizabeth laughed, “A common thief. Nothing I haven’t handled a million times before.”
“But I didn’t handle this one. The newbie did. With one wave of his staff the thief was paralysed. It made me realize… if a mage wants my job, no amount of effort will ever make up for that. For magic.”
Philip looked up at the sky, “oh.”
“I know it’s childish. To feel jealous in such a way. I just… it hit me hard. That realisation.”
“Nobody could replace you, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth smiled, “thank you but—”
And before Philip could justify his argument and Elizabeth make a counterargument. There was shouting.
“Medic! Please, someone help!”
Elizabeth was up and over there, “what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know! They just collapsed!”
Elizabeth looked down at was just a kid now lying on the floor, there were no visible injuries. She checked his pulse which was strong yet fast, and his breathing. The kid’s eyes were unfocused, and he was pale.
“Hey, how do you feel? Can you tell me anything?” she spoke calmly and softly.
The boy blinked, “hungry… tired…”
“I think it’s low blood sugar,” she informed, “does anybody have some fruit or—”
Philip handed her a vial.
Usually, Elizabeth would question anything given to her by a member of the public. But she wasn’t about to question the king. She helped the kid to consume the contents and before it was even finished he’d perked up. The colour came back to his face, he smiled and stood up.
“Wow, I feel much better!”
Elizabeth looked confused. The civilian who had called for help, probably his mother, thanked both Elizabeth and Philip.
Elizabeth said it was nothing and quickly left the scene with Philip, not wanting anybody to realise the stranger with the vial was the king.
“What was that?” Elizabeth asked once they were in an alleyway on the way back to the palace.
“Oh, it was a potion. Henry used to get low blood sugar at times so I make sure to always have some on me.”
Elizabeth frowned, “a potion? So, magic.”
Philip shook his head, then tilted it, “well, kind off. It had magical ingredients, but anybody can buy them at a store. I made it myself.”
“It’s a hobby of mine, alchemy can be fun and creative.”
Elizabeth paused, “and very helpful.”
“You want to learn more?”
Elizabeth nodded, “yes, actually. I just finished my medical training and was going to go into some more advanced horse training, but this seems far more useful.”
Philip smiled, then laughed.
“It’s just, it’s stupid that you of all people could be concerned of magic replacing you.”
“Every problem you encounter, you seek out a solution. You’re always working on learning something new so you can do your job better. Sure, magic can do some stuff better than you, but overall? You’re irreplaceable. Take it from me.”
Elizabeth blushed, smiled and nodded, “I guess you’re right.”
“So, when do we start your alchemy lessons?”
“The king is going to give me alchemy lessons?”
Philip nodded, “Only the best for my head of security.”
Elizabeth laughed, “I mean, if you put it like that, I can’t really argue.”
That night Elizabeth spoke very fondly of William to Henry. Who was confused but happy his plan had seemingly worked. Blissfully unaware of the turn of events that afternoon.
William trained for another few months before deciding he best not disappoint his grandmother. Going back to studying magic.
Elizabeth studied alchemy with Philip at the weekends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until Elizabeth was outgrowing her teacher and started to conduct her own research.